Flu shuts down United Kingdom racing until February 13

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The Queen's upcoming racing schedule has been thrown into jeopardy following an outbreak of equine influenza in the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday night, the British Horse Racing Authority confirmed it had found three cases of equine influenza in racehorses that had been vaccinated against the highly-contagious virus.

It is thought that more horses at race yards are likely to be infected with the disease, which takes 48 hours to incubate, and three days for tests to come back.

In an update on Thursday, the BHA explained that they were "assessing the scale and severity of the outbreak".

The sport's ruling body said it had identified yards that could have potentially been exposed today. However, the BHA admitted on Friday that the large number of tests now required means that the results of all its tests will not be known by the end of the weekend, when the Authority needs to decide whether there is a need to extend the current shutdown of British racing beyond next Wednesday.

The Cheltenham Festival is a favourite occasion of some members of The Royal Family, including the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal and Zara Tindall who attend most years.

The BHA informed the industry that it is taking immediate action over the positive tests, as there is potential for the disease to spread, reports GloucestershireLive.

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"The early actions of the BHA will ensure that this outbreak of equine influenza can be contained".

"We look forward to racing resuming as soon as possible, and hope that this will be well in advance of The Festival in five weeks" time'.

On each occasion, the racing calendar was affected for two months - and in 2001, the Cheltenham Festival was abandoned. Although rarely fatal, it can have a huge impact on competition and breeding due to restriction of horse movements.

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'The problem will be how do you test all the horses.

"This yard had runners at the fixtures at Newcastle on February 5 and Wolverhampton on February 6, and as such the BHA has taken the further precautionary steps of placing all 54 yards of trainers who also had runners at these fixtures on hold and initiating testing of horses from these yards". And they won't know until all those blood tests are done to all those runners before they can go any further with it'.

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